Here we are, wedged between Mother's Day and Father's Day, and I am thinking about that question that young children often ask around this time of year: "How come there's no 'children's day'?" Parents invariably respond with some version of, "Because every day is 'children's day.'"
That used to be true. I question whether it still is.
A friend's daughter was at Noblesville West Middle School in Indiana during the shooting last week, She was physically unhurt, but understandably hysterical, and quite likely traumatized. There were — thank goodness — no fatalities this time. But every one of these school shootings is horrifying, and their frequency is cause for alarm. The Noblesville shooting took place one week after 10 people were killed at Santa Fe High School in Texas; three months after 17 people were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. In fact, here have been nearly a dozen shootings at high schools or middle schools this year.
Did you catch that? Middle schools. The Noblesville shooter was in 7th grade.
This is not an editorial about gun rights or gun control. Weapons have been around since colonial days, but kids were not walking into the little red schoolhouse on the prairie and blowing their teachers and classmates away. When teenagers are shooting people (or stabbing them, or torturing them and posting videos of it on Facebook, or setting pipe bombs), it isn't a weapons problem; it is a culture problem.
And our culture is sick, indeed.
It is not merely that books, movies, music and video games are soaked in violence, although that is certainly true. Nor is it just that the perpetrators of violence take on cult hero status through 24/7/365 media coverage of their crimes, although that is true as well. (A New York Times article this week described the growing phenomenon of "Columbiners" — angry, disaffected young males who seek the kind of infamy that the two Columbine High School murderers have.)
It is that we refuse to let children be children. Childhood should be about innocence. But as a culture today, we sneer at innocence. Instead of protecting our children, we expose them to every imaginable human pathology and justify it by claiming that it's "art" or that "this happens in the real world, and kids need to know about it."
Consider how often preteens or young teens are depicted in highly sexualized circumstances, or perpetrating violence with few consequences, or shown as being utterly without capable adult guidance or supervision.
Season one of the show "13 Reasons Why" shocked the nation with its graphic depiction of a teen suicide. In the season two finale, they decided to up the ante, showing a male-on-male anal rape with a broken mop handle. The show's creator Brian Yorkey offered this justification:
"When we talk about something being 'disgusting' or hard to watch, often that means we are attaching shame to the experience. We would rather not be confronted with it. We would rather it stay out of our consciousness. This is why these kinds of assaults are underreported. This is why victims have a hard time seeking help. We believe that talking about it is so much better than silence."
How many high school students are violently sodomized? Those victims require every bit of assistance that we can provide, but they are not helped by infecting the "consciousness" of all children with this poison.
Last summer, Teen Vogue — a magazine whose readership includes preteens — featured a graphic article promoting the joys of anal sex. The editor condescendingly dismissed a national backlash as "rooted in homophobia ... (and an) arcane delusion about what it means to be a young person today."
See what I mean? Sneering at innocence. You ignoramus. Everyone's doing it. This is the sewer into which we toss our children and tell them to sink or swim.
This nonstop media onslaught does not engender "meaningful conversations" — it simultaneously desensitizes young people and terrorizes them with a distorted sense of the world in which they find themselves. One young commenter on Refinery29's review of the "13 Reasons Why" finale wrote, "Im going into Highschool ( Freshman ) once summer ends and man did that (rape scene) really makes me scared for my future."
We laden the brains and hearts and souls of our children with adult burdens they cannot possibly carry, and we pretend we're not warping their growth, like a scarring a sapling. (And all of this is without mentioning the emotional instability caused by the collapse of families, the epidemic of divorce and the absence of fathers.)
There was a time when adults understood that children needed our protection. Now, we virtue-signal our modernity by exposing our children to the worst that human beings are capable of.
Every day is "children's day"? Not anymore.
To find out more about Laura Hollis and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.